Interested in becoming a dog trainer? Because of the lack of regulation in the industry, it’s a decently accessible career to break into. That being said, how long it takes you to become a professional dog trainer depends entirely on the path you take to get your education and hands-on experience.
Use this information to approximate how long it will take you to become a dog trainer:
Dog Trainer Education: Two Months to Several Years
While no state currently requires a formal education for dog trainers, these options can help you gain the foundational knowledge and experience you need to do the job well. The timeline varies for each, and many are self-paced, meaning you can learn at a pace that is comfortable for you and works with your schedule. Some schools will even offer specialty programs to help create more opportunities and increase your income potential.
1. Hands-On School (2-5 Months)
There are several dog training schools across the country that offer a blend of classroom and hands-on education. Hands-on schools are usually more expensive and time consuming than online schools, but they offer a more robust curriculum and in-depth education. Plus, unlike in an online school, your time at a hands-on dog training school also serves as experience.
2. Online School (6-12 Months)
Not everyone is able to attend school full-time so many prospective dog trainers opt for online schooling. One of the biggest benefits of an online program is that you can learn at your own pace. Unfortunately, these programs offer little to no hands-on training, so you will need to gain that experience elsewhere, which could delay your journey to becoming a professional dog trainer.
3. Mentorship (Timeline Varies)
If school is out of your budget, the next best option is to find a mentor within the industry and learn from them, usually as an unpaid intern. In this case, your education timeline will depend on your mentor’s availability and discretion. They will train you at the pace in which they think you’re ready to learn.
4. Self-Education (Timeline Varies)
If these other options aren’t available to you, you can always become a self-educated dog trainer. There are plenty of great resources out there for prospective trainers, like books, seminars, and videos. Self-education usually takes longer, but it’s a great option if you don’t have the time or money to invest in more formal education.
Dog Trainer Certification: Several Weeks to Several Months
Any school you attend will certify you as a professional dog trainer, but if you wish to build your resume, there are additional certifications that you could seek out. The most well-known certification is through the Certified Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT). The CCPDT offers a few types of certifications. Each require some sort of proven experience and knowledge to pass.
- Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA®)
- Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge and Skills Assessed (CPDT-KSA®)
- Certified Behavior Consultant Canine-Knowledge Assessed (CBCC-KA®)
The CPDT-KA® certification is for professional dog trainers who wish to be certified for their knowledge of dog training. The CPDT-KSA® certification also requires that you be tested on the practical application of your dog training skills. The CBCC-KA® certification is specifically for advanced dog trainers who want to teach behavior modification. When you get certified through the CCPDT, you also appear in their nationwide database of dog trainers. This is a great way to get your name in front of potential clients.
While the certification exams take only an afternoon to complete, you’ll need to devote several weeks to several months to preparing for them. Depending on your educational background, it could even take a couple of years before you’re able to pass the exams.
On-The-Job Dog Training Skills: Timeline Varies
Once you complete your education and find a job as a dog trainer, you’ll likely need several years of on-the-job experience before you’re entirely proficient in your abilities.
As you work with clients’ dogs, you’ll not only hone your skills, but you’ll also be exposed to different training scenarios, behavior issues, and dog-owner dynamics. Each new client is a learning opportunity, so don’t rush the process.
Want to become a dog trainer? Take the first step today!
Our hands-on program is designed to provide you with the classroom and practical education you need to jumpstart your dog training career. Complete the form below for more information, or to book a tour of our Missouri facility.